National Writing Project

The Fledgling Years: Lessons from the First Four Years of the NWP in Vermont

By: Patricia McGonegal, Anne Watson
Publication: National Writing Project at Work
Date: November 2002

Summary: Authors Patricia McGonegal and Anne Watson, founders of a new writing project site, chronicle their first five years, focusing on the development of school-based inservice. They document the first years of their site, describing the role the site filled in the state, the first summer institute, funding matters, collaborations, and the successes and pitfalls of early professional development.


Excerpt from the Article

Mention Vermont and most people immediately picture small villages with white church steeples tucked in the crooks and valleys of the rugged land. In truth, this image does exist, and although Vermont's landscape is rapidly changing, it is still the most rural state in the nation.

Vermont has over 300 individual school districts. More than 200 schools have fewer than 150 students in grades K–6. Although each school has its own board of education clinging to local control, most schools belong to large, widespread supervisory unions containing several school districts. As a result of the distance between schools, however, each school retains its autonomy. When students leave grade six, most are thrust into a supervisory union high school with several hundred students. In spite of its rural nature, Vermont has placed itself on the national map with strong educational initiatives, notably the first-in-the-U.S. statewide Portfolio Assessment Program, which was implemented in 1991 and designed to encourage better teaching and give rich data on student performance.

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